Rays trade Diego Castillo to Seattle for JT Chargois and prospect Austin Shenton

The Rays acquired RHP JT Chargois from the Mariners on Thursday.

The Tampa Bay Rays and Seattle Mariners are finalizing an agreement that would send reliever Diego Castillo to the Pacific Northwest for fellow right-hander JT Chargois and infield prospect Austin Shenton. The Rays are taking an opportunity to both acquire an arm and restock their farm system.

Chargois should step into Castillo’s high-leverage spot in the stable. The 30-year-old may not have Castillo’s “stuff”, yet he’s been perhaps as effective this season, pitching to a 3.00 ERA and 3.19 FIP across 30 innings for the Mariners, with a 0.97 WHIP and a 4.83 K/BB.

Chargois seems to have figured out the control problems that plagued him early on, boasting a 5.1% walk rate this season after posting a double-digit percentage between 2015 and 2019 while bouncing between Triple-A and the big leagues with the Twins and Dodgers. He leans heavily on an 87 mph slider, which he throws 69% of the time, and a 96-97 mph sinker which he utilizes more heavily against right-handers. Chargois is a worm-killing hurler, coaxing ground balls at a 45% clip. He’s limited opponents to a .217 average overall, while lefties are only hitting .184 against him thus far. Put in layman’s terms, Chargois throws strikes and gets a ton of ground balls.

Diego Castillo’s fastball velocity has dropped precipitously since 2018.

As for Castillo, the righty went 2-4 with a 2.72 ERA and a 3.16 FIP, with a 0.99 WHIP and a 4.90 K/BB across 36.1 innings. If you are saying to yourself, “those numbers look similar to those of Chargois,” you would be correct. Yet, even though Diego has been a dependable reliever in the Rays’ ‘pen, he has shown a consistent decline in fastball velocity, which has dropped from 98.2 mph in 2019 to 94.9 mph in 2021. That could be something the team views as a red flag for the hurler … something that preceded the trade.

23-year-old infielder Austin Shenton was the Mariners’ 12th-ranked prospect according to Baseball America. Shenton started the season in High-A before earning a promotion to Double-A where he slashed .295 BA/.418 OBP/.576 SLG/.994 OPS line over 273 plate appearances. While he has played primarily at third base, he has also seen time at first and second, as well as DH. In two minor league seasons, Shenton owns a .299 BA/.399 OBP/.542 SLG/.941 OPS line with 19 home runs and 97 RBI in 120 games.

Rays 7/29/21 pregame notes

The Rays wasted a fantastic outing by Michael Wacha on Wednesday. (Photo Credit: Tampa Bay Rays)

Fits and starts, rinse, and repeat. After a 3-1, extra-inning loss to the Yankees on Wednesday, the Tampa Bay Rays are in salvage mode in the final game of the series this afternoon.

At 60-42 on the season, the Rays start the day 2.5 games behind the Red Sox in the division after losing three consecutive games — all by one run or in extra innings.

And while Michael Wacha tossed a gem (more on that below), it wasn’t enough for the Rays, who lost their first home series since May 13-15 which, ironically, also came against the Yankees. More concerning, though, is the health of Pete Fairbanks, who left Wednesday’s defeat with right shoulder inflammation. Additional information is expected this morning after he undergoes some tests.

Because of the injury, Fairbanks is headed to the 10-Day Injured List, and RHP Chris Mazza has been recalled to fill his spot on the active roster. Check back for any updates, as I will be, well … updating this piece.

Michael Wacha allowed one unearned run on three hits and a walk across five innings. He struck out nine — matching his season-high. The right-hander was pulled after just 79 pitches (54 strikes, 68% strike rate), although his nine whiffs also tied his season-high. Wacha didn’t surrender a homer for the first time since June 24 after getting taken deep eight times in his last four turns. On the season, Wacha sports a lowered 4.79 ERA and 4.74 FIP on the season, with a 3.47 K/BB and a 1.30 WHIP across 71.1 frames.

Tampa Bay, otherwise, went 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position, stranded five runners on the basepaths, and combined for a whopping three hits on the night. If I may, that’s not quite the recipe for success.

The New What Next

Luis Patiño (1-2, 5.26 ERA) will get the nod in the series finale, pitching opposite of Gerrit Cole (10-5, 2.74 ERA).

Luis Patiño got the start for Tampa Bay on Thursday and allowed four runs on five hits and three walks with four strikeouts across 5.1 innings versus the Guardians. He threw 66 of 98 pitches for strikes (67% strike rate). Patiño was alright, with the majority of Cleveland’s damage coming on a three-run homer in the third inning. Yet, Rays’ pitchers, including the right-hander, were able to hold the Guardians to 1-for-13 wRISP. Patiño’s ERA rose to 5.26, while his FIP currently sits at 4.18, with a 1.25 WHIP and 3.5 K/BB across 25.2 innings this season. He is 0-1 with a 2.25 ERA in one, four-inning start against the Yankees this season.

Gerrit Cole allowed three runs on six hits and two walks while fanning eight across five innings against Boston on Friday. Cole surrendered a two-run shot to Rafael Devers and gave up his three runs during the bottom of the fifth. The hurler was coming off back-to-back quality starts and had allowed just one earned run over his last 15 innings, yet he was unable to repeat that kind of performance in this one and failed to pitch more than five frames for the third time over his last five turns. Cole’s ERA rose to 2.74, while his FIP currently sits at 2.81, with a 0.97 WHIP and 6.38 K/BB across 125.0 innings on the season. He is 1-2 with a 3.26 ERA in three starts against the Rays this season. Key Matchups: Ji-Man Choi (8-12, 3 2B, 3 HR, 8 RBI, 3 BB), Yandy Díaz (8-21, HR, 4 RBI), Brandon Lowe (4-14, RBI, BB), Brett Phillips (1-4)

You can read about the series in our preview, while the starting lineup is below. Note: I’ll post any updates on Fairbanks’ health upon availability.

Rays 7/29/21 Starting Lineup

  1. B. Lowe 2B
  2. Choi 1B
  3. Díaz 3B
  4. Meadows DH
  5. Arozarena LF
  6. Franco SS
  7. Kiermaier CF
  8. Zunino C
  9. Phillips RF
  10. Patiño P

LBWMF: Rays look to bounce back from 4-3 loss; Chris Archer update

The guy on the left made an impressive catch in his return to the active roster yesterday, while the guy on the right had the opportunity to come up as the hero in the Rays’ 4-3 loss on Tuesday.

After a 4-3 loss on Tuesday, the Tampa Bay Rays look to bounce back against New York tonight. It was just the seventh loss in their last 30 home games.

At 60-41 on the season, the Rays enter play 19-games over .500 and now trail the Red Sox by two games in the division. They are 8-6 against New York this season and now are 1-4 in the games started by Jordan Montgomery … this, despite the fact that they went 3-for-10 wRISP. Tampa Bay stranded nine men on the basepaths overall.

Shane McClanahan allowed three runs on nine hits and three walks over six innings. He struck out six. The rookie wasn’t especially sharp, tossing 60 of 89 pitches for strikes (67% strike rate), yet he pitched well enough to earn his third quality start of the season — all of which have come in his last six starts. And while he found his way into a few jams, especially in the first three frames, he also found his way out of them, coaxing a pair of double plays, while also getting a little help from Manuel Margot, who made an outstanding sliding catch in right to end the sixth inning. McClanahan boasts a solid 3.34 ERA with a 1.21 WHIP, and a 3.17 K/BB across 32.1 innings over that six-game stretch.

While last night’s contest left a lot to be desired, let’s relive the ninth-inning for a moment if just to remember that all that glitters isn’t gold, and the Rays got incredibly close to getting to Chapman and potentially winning the game.

AB No. 1 – Kiermaier: strikeout on three pitches, which was to be expected.

AB 2 – Margot: hit a gapper that had a beefy .920 xBA, and was literally inches away from resulting in a runner at second or third with one out.

AB 3 – Franco: fantastic seven-pitch AB resulting in a walk.

The blue square in the right corner is the final pitch of the game with Nelson Cruz at the plate.

AB 4 – Cruz: six-pitch AB resulting in a strikeout on a slider when Cruz, historically, does not fare well against sliders.

It’s foolish to say Chapman “found it.” He didn’t. In fact, the left-hander got very lucky given who was at the plate and where he left that slider to end the game. Had Cruz been able to foul it off and see another pitch, we could be talking about another blown save from Chapman.

I know it’s a woulda, coulda, shoulda scenario, however, I’m certainly not going to call it a resounding win (if you’re a Yankee fan) or a resounding loss.

The New What Next

Michael Wacha (2-2, 5.16 ERA) will get the start on Wednesday, pitching opposite of Nestor Cortes (0-0, 1.95 ERA).

Michael Wacha allowed three runs on six hits and struck out two in five innings on Wednesday against the Orioles. The righty was very efficient, not issuing any walks and requiring just 58 pitches to complete the five frames. A pair of solo homers slightly diminished what was otherwise a solid turn for Wacha, who now has a 5.16 ERA and a 5.08 FIP, with a 1.34 WHIP and a 3.17 K/BB across 66.1 innings this season. Inconsistency has been the story of his season. He is 1-0 with a 3.09 ERA in three outings (one start) against the Yankees this season.

Nestor Cortes allowed three runs on three hits across two innings Friday versus Boston. He struck out three batters and did not issue a walk. The mustachioed left-hander was activated from the COVID-19 IL earlier in the day and got into the division clash with Red Sox, staked to a two-run lead in the sixth inning. Cortes got through his first frame unscathed, yet Rafael Devers tagged him for a three-run homer in the seventh that broke the game open for Boston. The blast accounted for as many earned runs against Cortes (three) as he had allowed through 25.2 innings prior to Friday. He still carries an impressive 1.95 ERA on the season, with a 2.25 FIP, 1.01 WHIP, and a 3.40 K/BB. Key Matchups: Ji-Man Choi (1-3), Nelson Cruz (1-1, HR, RBI, BB), Yandy Díaz (2-5, 2B, HR, 3 RBI), Kevin Kiermaier (1-4, 2 RBI, BB), Brandon Lowe (1-2, HR, 3 RBI)

You can read about the series in our preview, while Noteworthiness, and the starting lineup are below.

Rays 7/28/21 Starting Lineup

  1. Margot LF
  2. Franco SS
  3. Meadows DH
  4. Díaz 1B
  5. B. Lowe 2B
  6. Arozarena RF
  7. Wendle 3B
  8. Mejía C
  9. Phillips CF
  10. Wacha RHP

Noteworthiness

— Chris Archer (forearm tightness) threw 3.2 innings of scoreless ball on 59 pitches with Triple-A Durham, allowing one hit and a walk while striking out five. The Rays will likely want the right-hander to push his pitch count up to the 75-to-90-pitch range/five innings before reinstating him from the 60-day Injured List, so he’ll likely require one more rehab start beyond Tuesday.

— DH Nelson Cruz has been scratched from tonight’s game due to a foot contusion suffered during Tuesday night’s game. He is still available off the bench if needed. This isn’t expected to be a long-term injury for the slugger.

Rays connected to several players with the trade deadline looming

Will “Mad” Max be a Ray come the weekend?

With the trade deadline quickly approaching, one huge question surrounds the Tampa Bay Rays: will they land another impact player? Just a few days ago they netted a huge catch in Nelson Cruz, and FanGraphs has them at a +85% chance of making the playoffs for a third consecutive season. In short, while the chances of a postseason berth haven’t changed dramatically over the last week — they are expected to play meaningful baseball past September — one cannot help but wonder if they will bolster the roster heading into what they hope will be a deep postseason run? If I’m a gambling person, I’d have to say yes. However, will they acquire the big arm of Max Scherzer? I’m not convinced. Still, there are options, and let’s weigh some of them … including Scherzer.

Max Scherzer

Scherzer is particularly interesting, to say the least. And since the Rays are coming off a World Series appearance, one would assume that the potential for a deep postseason run would sweeten the pot not only for the right-hander but also his agent, Scott Boras. Put another way, a veteran hurler like “Mad” Max would want nothing more than to appear in a World Series, especially with free agency looming. Yet, trades don’t always follow the whims and want of a fanbase, and a trade involving the right-hander would be complicated for myriad reasons.

Scherzer is due $11.8-million for the balance of the season, which is a pretty penny to pay, although that money can be deferred until 2028. Even so, more than $100-million in deferred money is still owed to him for 2022-28.

However, Ken Rosenthal (the Athletic) offered an advantageous caveat to that deferred money.

The uniquely structured seven-year, $210 million free-agent deal Scherzer signed with the Nationals in January 2015 essentially pays him $15 million per year from ’15 to ’28. Scherzer’s payout this season is a $15 million portion of his $50 million signing bonus. He already has received half of that amount, with the other $7.5 million due in September.

The signing bonus, however, is solely the Nationals’ obligation, and not one an acquiring team would pay, according to two sources with knowledge of how a trade would work. The acquiring team instead would be responsible for the remainder of Scherzer’s $35 million salary for 2021 — about one-third. And that amount, because it is deferred entirely until ’28, would be valued at less than it is now.

— Ken Rosenthal

Even so, Scherzer also has full no-trade protection as a 10-5 player, and he would have to okay a move to Tampa Bay by waiving his no-trade clause. … although he is reportedly open to waiving his no-trade rights. Yet, Boras previously suggested Scherzer would require some type of incentive (for example, a contract extension) in order to waive those trade rights.

It should also be noted that Scherzer “strongly prefers the West Coast” according to Mark Feinsand (MLB.com). While that doesn’t mean Scherzer would veto a move to the Rays, the probability of that happening is vastly reduced if the hurler was presented with multiple trade options, such as a potential deal with the Dodgers, Giants, or Padres.

Kyle Gibson

The former Twin has rejuvenated his career after being one of the worst starters in the league last season. Gibson sits atop of Texas’ rotation with 6-3 record, a 2.86 ERA, a 3.75 FIP, a 1.18 WHIP, 94 strikeouts, and a 2.29 K/BB across 113 innings. His last three starts haven’t been anything to write home about, with the right-hander performing to a 7.79 ERA with a 1.08 K/BB. What’s more, the lowest BABIP of his career combined with his Statcast profile gives a false representation of his numbers, making one question whether or not his “career season” is sustainable? Given the latter, a postseason meltdown wouldn’t bode well for any team much less Tampa Bay.

The right-hander is controlled through 2022, which is a plus for the Rays, yet he still has $7-million remaining on his three-year contract, which is less so. In all fairness, he could always be flipped to another team after the postseason to save payroll space. Even so, I don’t see Erik Neander making a deal for a player with an unproven track record, like Gibson.

Jon Gray

The Rays have been connected to right-hander Jon Gray, along with the Astros, San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego Padres, New York Mets, Boston Red Sox, and New York Yankees.

Gray has put together a solid season for the Rockies, going 6-6 with a 3.67 ERA and a 4.20 FIP, with a 1.22 WHIP, and a 2.28 K/BB across 98.0 innings. Opponents are hitting just .220 against him and striking out 22% of the time. For whatever reason, the right-hander has performed better at home than away, maintaining a 3.14 ERA at Coors Field versus a 4.43 ERA in 40.2 innings away from home. To that end, his opponent SLG and BABIP also are vastly different at home (.323 SLG and .183 BABIP) than away (.466 SLG and .341 BABIP). While BABIP is predicated on the fielders behind him and could be remedied to an extent by the Rays’ elite defense, a question begs, could the Rays’ coaching staff help Gray knock back his opponent slugging percentage? After all, he is on the cusp of being an extreme groundball pitcher, boasting a 49.8% groundball rate in 2021.

Gray has a good track record in an unforgiving environment, and it would be easy to see how he could be successful in Tampa Bay, especially under the tutelage of Kyle Snyder. He has the ability to be a No. 2 or 3 starter in a good rotation, which could only help the Rays if Tyler Glasnow doesn’t come back, or Chris Archer proves to be ineffective.

Kris Bryant

Kris Bryant is widely expected to be dealt, by the North Siders, and whoever else the Cubs trade could contribute to what they do with the former NL MVP.  Should the Cubs remove a significant amount of payroll, they could be open to absorbing more of Bryant’s salary, around $6.8-million remaining, in order to obtain better prospects from the Rays.

Adding Bryant would represent a major boost to the Rays lineup, and Bryant also brings the versatility — he can play all over the infield and outfield. A trade for Bryant would present a positional logjam for Tampa Bay, although the Rays could send a big-league position player back to the Cubs.

Conclusion

While an acquisition of Scherzer or Bryant would be fantastic, I see a trade for a Gray to be more reasonable, if only because there are fewer moving parts. Also, the Rays would arguably benefit more from an additional arm than an extra bat when you consider the current state of the starting rotation. While Gray is no Scherzer, it would be difficult for the Rays to compete with, say, a Mets or a Dodgers given what is mentioned above.

In all honesty, I could be very wrong, which I would gladly welcome. Only time will tell though, and the clock is ticking.

TNWN: Rays vs. Yankees — again with a series preview

The Tampa Bay Rays return home for an important nine-game homestand, starting Monday. (Photo Credit: X-Rays Spex)

After winning three of four against Cleveland, and five of the last seven, the Tampa Bay Rays return to the friendly confines of the Trop, where they will start a three-game set against the New York Yankees on Tuesday. The Yankees dropped three of four against the Red Sox in the previous series.

At 60-40 on the season, the Rays enter play 20-games over .500 and are 1.5 games back in the division behind Boston. They’ve won seven of the last 10 contests. Meanwhile, the Yankees come in at 51-47 — 9.5 games back in the division, 3.5 games back of the Athletics for the final Wildcard spot, and winners of six of the last 10 games.

Tampa Bay’s offense continued to shine over the weekend, plating 25 runs against Cleveland, while a quarter of those runs came with two outs. The Yankees didn’t fare nearly as well when the Rays needed them the most, dropping a walk-off loss to Boston on Thursday, then blowing a late 4-0 no-hit bid on Sunday, and subsequently losing 5-4. Credit where it’s due, they did hit .286 wRISP, yet they also allowed five two-out runs.

Tampa Bay ranks sixth in baseball averaging 4.94 runs per game. The bats are hot; they have scored at least five runs in four of the last five games and are as dangerous as ever with Nelson Cruz in the lineup.

Austin Meadows has feasted on New York this season, collecting 13 RBI along with a beefy 1.080 OPS. Meadows is in the midst of a great season, mashing 18 homers with 71 RBI and an overall .797 OPS. He’s driven in eight runs in the last five games. Meanwhile, Randy Arozarena continues his toasty ways in the second half, hitting .286 BA/.306 OBP/.600 SLG/.906 OPS with a .314 ISO, three homers, eight runs, and five runs batted in.

The Yankees are expected to get Aaron Judge, Kyle Higoshioka, and Gio Urshela back from the COVID-related Injured List. Urshela has been a thorn in the Rays side, sporting a .298 average along with five RBI in season head-to-heads. Overall, the third baseman has clubbed 11 homers along with 39 RBI and a .757 OPS. Luke Voit remains on the IL.

As strange as it may sound, the Yankees are averaging fewer runs than the Rays — 4.16 runs per game — and rank 23rd in all of baseball. And while New York’s pitching staff has tallied a 3.74 team ERA and a combined 3.81 FIP, landing them 11th overall, the bullpen has been abysmal over the last month, performing to a combined 5.94 ERA and a 4.33 FIP. Dare I say their woes began around the time MLB began enforcing illegal substance checks? Hmmm … that’s interesting timing.

The Rays are 30-18 at home this season and have won 23 of the last 29 games at Tropicana Field. They also are 8-5 against the Yankees in ’21, with a +27 run differential … although their last home series loss came against the Yankees in mid-May.

Pitching Probables

Kevin Cash will turn to Shane McClanahan (4-3, 3.88 ERA), Michael Wacha (2-2, 5.16 ERA), and Luis Patiño (1-2, 5.26 ERA) over the next three days. Aaron Boone will counter with Jordan Montgomery (3-5, 3.96 ERA), Nestor Cortes (0-0, 1.95 ERA) likely as an opener, and Gerrit Cole (10-5, 2.74 ERA).

Shane McClanahan got the start Tuesday against the Orioles and allowed one run on four hits and a walk over five innings. He struck out seven. The rookie was sharp, tossing 65 of 93 pitches for strikes (70% strike rate). A second-inning double by Anthony Santander provided the only loud contact off McClanahan on the night, while a third-inning double play erased a Ji-Man Choi gaffe. While he didn’t complete six innings, he was forced to get four outs on more than one occasion because the defense committed two errors behind the left-hander and four overall — the most for the Rays in a game in more than two seasons, and the most at home in more than four. McClanahan hasn’t allowed more than three earned runs in an outing since June 2 and carries a 3.88 ERA and a 3.64 FIP, with a 1.25 WHIP and 3.55 K/BB through 65 innings on the season. He was tagged for four runs on five hits and two walks across 3.1 innings in his last start against the Yankees.

Jordan Montgomery allowed three hits and one walk while striking out six across 5.2 scoreless innings Thursday against Boston. Montgomery retired the first six batters he faced before running into trouble in the third. He, however, escaped without allowing any earned runs and ended the outing with his first scoreless effort since May 21 — a stretch of nine starts. Montgomery now owns a 3.96 ERA and a 3.58 FIP with a 3.39 K/BB across 104.2 innings. He is 2-1 with a 3.86 ERA in four starts against the Rays this season and 1-0 with a 4.09 ERA in two starts at the Trop. Key Matchups: Austin Meadows (3-11, BB), Francisco Mejía (2-5, HR, RBI), Mike Zunino (2-4, 2 HR, 3 RBI)

Michael Wacha allowed three runs on six hits and struck out two in five innings on Wednesday against the Orioles. The righty was very efficient, not issuing any walks and requiring just 58 pitches to complete the five frames. A pair of solo homers slightly diminished what was otherwise a solid turn for Wacha, who now has a 5.16 ERA and a 5.08 FIP, with a 1.34 WHIP and a 3.17 K/BB across 66.1 innings this season. Inconsistency has been the story of his season. He is 1-0 with a 3.09 ERA in three outings (one start) against the Yankees this season.

Nestor Cortes allowed three runs on three hits across two innings Friday versus Boston. He struck out three batters and did not issue a walk. The mustachioed left-hander was activated from the COVID-19 IL earlier in the day and got into the division clash with Red Sox, staked to a two-run lead in the sixth inning. Cortes got through his first frame unscathed, yet Rafael Devers tagged him for a three-run homer in the seventh that broke the game open for Boston. The blast accounted for as many earned runs against Cortes (three) as he had allowed through 25.2 innings prior to Friday. He still carries an impressive 1.95 ERA on the season, with a 2.25 FIP, 1.01 WHIP, and a 3.40 K/BB. Key Matchups: Ji-Man Choi (1-3), Nelson Cruz (1-1, HR, RBI, BB), Yandy Díaz (2-5, 2B, HR, 3 RBI), Kevin Kiermaier (1-4, 2 RBI, BB), Brandon Lowe (1-2, HR, 3 RBI)

Luis Patiño got the start for Tampa Bay on Thursday and allowed four runs on five hits and three walks with four strikeouts across 5.1 innings versus the Guardians. He threw 66 of 98 pitches for strikes (67% strike rate). Patiño was alright, with the majority of Cleveland’s damage coming on a three-run homer in the third inning. Yet, Rays’ pitchers, including the right-hander, were able to hold the Guardians to 1-for-13 wRISP. Patiño’s ERA rose to 5.26, while his FIP currently sits at 4.18, with a 1.25 WHIP and 3.5 K/BB across 25.2 innings this season. He is 0-1 with a 2.25 ERA in one, four-inning start against the Yankees this season.

Gerrit Cole allowed three runs on six hits and two walks while fanning eight across five innings against Boston on Friday. Cole surrendered a two-run shot to Rafael Devers and gave up his three runs during the bottom of the fifth. The hurler was coming off back-to-back quality starts and had allowed just one earned run over his last 15 innings, yet he was unable to repeat that kind of performance in this one and failed to pitch more than five frames for the third time over his last five turns. Cole’s ERA rose to 2.74, while his FIP currently sits at 2.81, with a 0.97 WHIP and 6.38 K/BB across 125.0 innings on the season. He is 1-2 with a 3.26 ERA in three starts against the Rays this season. Key Matchups: Ji-Man Choi (8-12, 3 2B, 3 HR, 8 RBI, 3 BB), Yandy Díaz (8-21, HR, 4 RBI), Brandon Lowe (4-14, RBI, BB), Brett Phillips (1-4)

Noteworthiness

— Rays optioned RHP Sean Poppen back to the Durham Bulls ahead of the expected activation of Manuel Margot from the 10-Day IL. That will give the team 13 pitchers and position players.

— Nick Anderson made his second rehab appearance in the Florida Complex League on Monday and struck out two in a perfect inning of work.